After seeing Pixar’s dazzling, creative and heartfelt WALL-E, it’s a serious crash back down to Earth to watch Space Chimps, the clumsy, unfunny and aesthetically crude middle entry in this summer’s trio of animated movies about space (look for Fly Me to the Moon next month). Space Chimps is exactly what you’d expect from mediocre kids’ entertainment: cute but generic anthropomorphized animals, a rote plot with predictable lessons about believing in yourself, occasional pointless pop-culture references to keep adults from nodding off and rudimentary animation that does no more than get the job done.
It doesn’t even quite do that, really: While the titular chimps are acceptably cute, the movie spends an inordinate amount of time on some generic, candy-colored aliens who look like knock-off toys you might buy in a discount store. The chimps get sent to the aliens’ planet to follow an unmanned space probe that was sucked through a wormhole and to see if the journey is safe for humans. An excessively hard-nosed politician deems this not a sufficiently momentous mission (with the discovery of alien life and all), so instead of sending competent trained chimps Luna (voiced by Cheryl Hines) and Titan (Warburton) alone, he teams them with the irresponsible Ham (Samberg), circus chimp and grandson of the first simian in space, as a cheap publicity stunt.
As if the plot weren’t full enough of contrivances, the chimps then land on an alien planet where they must learn to work together while evading some poorly conceived monsters and overthrowing the villain, who’s used human technology to take over the world. It makes the movie cluttered and unfocused, as much about aliens as it is about chimps, and the interactions between the chimps and the aliens don’t make a whole lot of sense. Small children may be distracted by the movie’s bright colors, but others will be bored by the dull story and almost complete lack of wonder. The celebrity voiceover stars (who also include Jeff Daniels, Kristin Chenoweth and Stanley Tucci) do what they can to sell the feeble jokes, but it’s clear that they, like everyone else involved, are just going through the motions.